“Anyone who says that David Gerard personally stopped their crypto getting into Wikipedia is a fuckwit,” says editor, Wikimedia spokesman and professional crypto hater David Gerard in his typically no-nonsense fashion.
“There are a lot of fuckwits.”
On the BBC or in the Financial Times, Gerard isn’t just passionately arguing against cryptocurrencies when he’s not editing Wikipedia. The author of the 2017 self-published hit Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain can be found there.
Even among the most well-known critics of crypto, Gerard is the best.
In more than a decade, he hasn’t liked Bitcoin or the blockchain. When Bitcoin was first talked about as an alternative source of money for Wikileaks after mainstream payment processors cut it off, he hated it.
Gerard, like a lot of other people who don’t like Bitcoin, thinks it’s not just that it’s a hyped-up Ponzi scheme or a glorified database with no real use case. He thinks it’s wrong both philosophically and politically.
“I saw that Bitcoin was created by internet libertarians and figured that would predict everything about it,” he tells Magazine. “I was correct. People who think they don‘t need to know what they‘re talking about and can reinvent it all from first principles are certain to fuck up in predictable ways, and they have.”
Gerard, who says he’s “liberal,” thinks Bitcoin is a project run by right-wing Libertarians. That’s enough to make him want to stop it.
“Libertarianism as a political ideology is fundamentally childish and dumb as hell. Growing up in Australia, I didn‘t even believe this shit was real — I thought Libertarianism was some sort of savage Swiftian satire, not a thing people would actually believe. Then I got on the internet, and oh well.”
Gerard isn’t the only person who doesn’t like Bitcoin. The industry has more well-known skeptics and fierce opponents than most.
Probably because the crypto community is very interested in what they say and what they say is bad.
The people who don’t like crypto are very loud and proud, from gold fan Peter Schiff tweeting about how happy he is when gold prices fall so he can sell more of it to economist Nouriel Roubini yelling about Ponzi-like bubbles.
They’re not all a bunch of old people who don’t know how to use technology:
People like Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman or author Nassim Taleb, who wrote the book The Black Swan, have a lot of impressive credentials. They also use the word “bitdiot” in every tweet.
There are also people in the arts and gaming communities who don’t like NFT because they think it’s bad for the environment or because game developers are trying to get more money out of people by making them play more games.
To find out why crypto critics do what they do
They want to know what they like and don’t like about the area.
“Meh, it’s not for me,” they should just say.
this guy works on the most useless tech on the planet… private blockchains ?? https://t.co/hMoob0qUSq
— Dean Eigenmann (@DeanEigenmann) February 1, 2022
Endless cavalcade of conmen
How do I know Gerard, who spends a lot of his time looking for bad crypto news stories to put on his blog?
Gerard sold 14,000 copies of Attack, which is almost unheard of for a self-published book in the United Kingdom. This is part of what makes the book appealing.
He’s turned the book into a blog that gets 1000-3000 hits a day, but strong stories like his reports on El Salvador’s Bitcoin law get a lot of attention, like 10,000 hits.
That’s what he says. He can’t look away.
“There’s always more to talk about, but it’s interesting because there are so many crooks, suckers, and suckers who think they’re the crook,” he says.
“The moral core of Attack is that scams and scammers are bad and reprehensible. But, the hilarious stupidity is inexhaustible. There‘s always another story to tell about dumb crooks.”
“If crypto people would like me to stop, probably the first thing they need to do is stop feeding me material.”
A long time ago, in a former brothel
In the mid-1990s, Gerard and I were living together in a shabby old brothel in Brunswick, Australia, as uni students. At the same time, the Cypherpunks were dreaming up e-cash that was not controlled by governments.
In the interview for the movie Cryptopia, he came up. I hadn’t seen him since then, but then I saw him.
This is what happened to him back then: He ran an expose on the Scientology church’s “cult-like” aspects and revealed the church’s secrets about the alien Xenu, who… well, you can look it up, too.
Scientists were angry and took all the print copies. This is how it works:
Gerard then set up the Australian Critics of Scientology website to get the information out there quickly.
Given that the church was almost certain to sue, it was risky to host such a site.
Gerard asked Julian Assange, a young hacker and Cypherpunk named Julian Assange, for help. Assange was the system administrator of a free speech-focused ISP called Suburbia.net, and he could help Gerard.
In a recent podcast, he talked about how Assange had “titanium balls. Depleted uranium nutsack, it was incredible.”
“For about four years there he was getting legal threats, investigators coming around […] I will say that he stood by me absolutely reliably at that time, in what most people would call quite trying circumstances. I think that‘s because we both have the sort of inclination, the sort of person whose response to any slight whatsoever is ‘bring it on.’ Neither of us knew how to back down.”
When Assange spoke later, he said that his experience with the Scientology site helped him understand the way a certain platform called Wikileaks could work.
During his time fighting Scientology, Gerard was as passionate about it as he is now. It’s hard not to think that Gerard is the only voice of reason against indoctrination and crazy ideas in both cases.
People like Schiff and Roubini are famous for predicting the global financial crisis. They now take pride in being able to see through what they think is the “hype” of blockchain and find its “empty center.”
Gerard, unlike many critics, does his research and is very knowledgeable about the issues in the crypto world. If you can handle his relentlessly negative approach and often 100% wrong conclusions about how bad everything in crypto is, you’ll probably find at least some crypto news on his blog that you haven’t seen anywhere else.
People who are excited about crypto should follow at least a few skeptics to make sure they’re hearing both sides of the story.
Filmmaker Torsten Hoffman tells he featured Gerard in his award-winning 2020 Cryptopia documentary because “some of his points are well informed.”
“In the film, his take on corporate blockchain projects was spot on. They are often just disguised centralized database projects that the chief technology officer re-branded into blockchain in order to get the budget approved and a NYT headline.”
Even so, Gerard and a few other people are the exceptions that show the rule is true.
As a group, crypto critics seem to have no idea what they’re talking about at all
Taleb wrote an academic paper that said that the main Bitcoin blockchain will die because all the Bitcoin will move to the Lightning Network, which is faster than the main Bitcoin network.
Krugman has been saying the same things he said more than a decade ago about Bitcoin. He thinks it’s a bubble based on nothing that takes the monetary system back 300 years and is like Bernie Maddoff’s Ponzi scheme.
skeptics imagining all the scenarios in which crypto fails but ignoring the one reality in which its working pic.twitter.com/oi4HO6rcfg
— David Canellis (@dcanellis) March 28, 2022
Nothing like good criticism
Professor Jason Potts, the co-director of the Blockchain Innovation Hub at RMIT in Melbourne, says there’s nothing better than good criticism to help you improve your ideas and think better.
A big problem is that most of the crypto critics out there right now aren’t really criticizing in the right way.
“I think criticism has an incredibly important role in any intellectual endeavor. You‘re developing ideas and you need critics of ideas to help shape their development,” he says. “My perspective is that in the blockchain space, kind of since the beginning, the self-identified critics have been pretty underwhelming.”
Potts thinks that because of how quickly technology and the ideas that go with it change, anyone who isn’t fully immersed in the subject risks being left behind.
“This is such a fast moving experimental space where just the knowledge gap between the frontiers and what we knew before is so vast, that unless you‘re actually involved in the space and building, it‘s really easy just to fundamentally misunderstand what’s going on.”
Loving the haters
People in the crypto world seem to enjoy the people who don’t like them.
For crypto conferences around the world, Roubini has been pulled out like an angry monkey to repeat the same arguments for money against people like BitMEX founder Arthur Hayes and Bitcoin Cash’s Roger Ver.
And, Schiff’s fans seem to be mostly people who use Bitcoin.
During the time that his son Spencer decided to go all-in on Bitcoin instead of gold, the elder Schiff put up a Twitter poll and asked, “Whose advice do you want to follow?”
A 57-year-old experienced investor or business owner who has been in the investment business for more than 30 years, or an 18-year-old college freshman who hasn’t even worked a day in her life.”
Against my advice my son @SchiffSpencer just bought even more #Bitcoin. Whose advice do you want to follow? A 57-year-old experienced investor/business owner who’s been an investment professional for over 30 years or an 18-year-old college freshman who’s never even had a job.
— Peter Schiff (@PeterSchiff) September 7, 2020
There were 83,000 people who took a poll, and 81 percent of them named “the kid.” This means that a lot of his 650,000 Twitter followers are Bitcoiners who love to hate-read his posts.
Bitcoin has been called dead by the media 446 times. It’s possible that the fascination comes from a sense of pride and pleasure at listening to the people who don’t like it.
That’s not all: The price keeps going up every year as more and more institutions join.
Vengeance is a great feeling.
Bitcoin: The End of Money as We Know It is being re-released by Hoffman, who made the film in 2015. He says that Schiff is taking advantage of this dynamic for his own benefit.
“Let‘s give the man some credit. He‘s a master troll. His crusade against Bitcoin — and Bitcoiners crusade against Schiff — just helps with getting more retweets, podcast downloads and page views. See, we‘re talking about him right here”
Rumor has it that Roubini could almost stop going to a few more crypto conferences.
“Roubini has allegedly made a nice side career with six-digit speaking fees ranting about crypto,” says Hoffman. “That doesn‘t make everything he says wrong, but maybe we should look at people 40 years younger when it comes to understanding the crypto economy.”
BitMEX founder Arthur Hayes said something similar after the famed Tangle in Tapei debate with Roubini in 2019.
“It was quite clear that Roubini is a one-trick pony,” he added. “He increases his publicity by being hyper-critical of Bitcoin regardless of the actual facts. And that is why the media trots him out whenever they need someone to bash Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry.”
Roubini said that “BitMEX is just an example of everything that is sick and wrong in the industry.” Hayes, of course, later agreed to pay a $10 million fine for violating anti-money laundering rules.
sometimes it seems like it is, given the fondness for replies like these pic.twitter.com/t01LM905TY
— Molly White (@molly0xFFF) March 27, 2022
The old guard
Everything that is new has people who don’t like it.
When mobile phones first came out, people didn’t like anyone who was seen with one.
Having a flash drive with three albums of low-quality music on it didn’t seem like it was going to work.
It also has to fight against people who benefit from the old system, says Potts.
In Potts’ words: “A lot of what people are saying about the Bitcoin blockchain and the crypto space is really just standard defense moves from existing power structures, and that doesn’t seem like an effective critique to me. That doesn’t seem like an effective defense of the status quo.”
People like Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger are an example, Potts says.
Buffett thinks Bitcoin is “rat poison squared,” and Munger thinks it’s like having a bad case of the genitals.
“They‘re invested in a previous set of institutional technologies and business models that are heavily reliant on the ways in which money and payments and registries and incentive structures organizations work. This is highly disruptive […] Therefore, just for purely shareholder self interest reasons, they don‘t like it.”
A lot of people have said that Krugman has been very clear about how important it is to protect the current financial system from Bitcoin. In September 2011, he made this point in an article in The New York Times.
A central bank couldn’t make more money to boost the economy if Bitcoin was used as the reserve currency, he said.
In 2013, he wrote a blog post called “Bitcoin is evil,” in which he praised Charlie Stross.
“BitCoin looks like it was made to hurt central banking and money-issuing banks, with a Libertarian political goal in mind, so that states can’t collect taxes and keep track of their citizens’ money.”
Bitcoiners like to point to a prediction he made in 1998: “By 2005, it will be clear that the internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the impact of the fax machine on the economy.”
Potts: “He’s smarter than I will ever be.”
“But, he’s been very brave and made a lot of claims out loud that, in retrospect, were just a joke.”
Other economists, people like Larry White and others, macro monetary specialists and theorists, provide a much more detailed and sharp critique. They are also putting forward a very interesting critique of the space.
This you bro? ?
Wrong about #Bitcoin since 2011
— citing Paul Krugman! ? https://t.co/fIprnim8ao pic.twitter.com/wwJ9DxWvNY
— Bitcoin Archive ??? (@BTC_Archive) June 6, 2021
Scams and fraud
Cryptocurrency is easy for scammers because there isn’t much regulation and a lot of people who want to make money quickly but don’t know how it works.
People like Twitter influencer Mr Whale, whose bearish and contrarian views have gained him over 430,000 followers, and journalist Amy Castor, who calls herself a “noodler,” are motivated by this fact.
In this piece, neither of them agreed to be interviewed.
They think the whole thing is full of financial fraud, from the QuadrigaX case (where wallet keys were lost, a sudden death, and an insolvent exchange) to the truth about the stablecoin issuer behind Tether.
Many crypto journalists aren’t sure about Tether, but some people think it’s a fact that Tether isn’t backed and that it printed $83 billion in USDT out of thin air.
To understand why Castor’s most famous tweet makes no sense from a Bitcoin supporter’s perspective, you have to believe that everything about crypto is being faked.
“When you see the price of Bitcoin hitting new highs like this, it means large holders are cashing out—ahead of the crash, which they all know is coming.”
There was an investigation by the New York Attorney General about how much money Tether had in reserve. If it is a money-printing machine, they have done very well to keep it going.
Given the real-life things that happen in crypto, it’s not a sure thing that that could happen.
As Gerard’s hatred of Libertarians shows, many people are motivated by their dislike of the way Bitcoin is perceived to be politically correct.
Crypto critics don’t think that technology is neutral when it comes to politics, but that’s what people think.
There is a book by David Golumbia called The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism. It says that Bitcoin was born out of the right-wing conspiracy-loving culture of Cypherpunks and that the technology itself is right wing.
Because the Cypherpunks were right-wing, some people say that because the Volkswagen Beetle was invented by Adolf Hitler, everyone who drives one must be a Nazi. I’ve talked to Golumbia about the subject for a long time and found him to be a fascinating and insightful person with a lot of background knowledge.
Gerard, on the other hand, thinks the main point is true and says it helped him write a chapter of his book.
He also doesn’t think Ethereum fans are any less right wing than Bitcoin fans. This is interesting.
“‘ETH is left wing’ is nonsense. Buterin espouses basic Silicon Valley techno-libertarianism with subtle anarcho-capitalism underneath that pretends to hide its power level. His parents are ardent ancaps and brought him up with this stuff. His main sponsor is Peter Theil. He might be ‘left’ of the most rabid Bitcoin ancaps, but not of any sort of political spectrum outside the weird world of crypto.”
Potts isn’t happy about the idea that crypto is always right-wing, and he says that both the left and the right are interested in crypto as a way to fight centralized power, whether it’s in politics or in monopolistic businesses.
“It‘s both a left-wing and a right-wing story about trying to remove concentrations of power, whether its political power or market power from systems,” he says.
“The fundamental story of a lot of different people involved in the space and a lot of different political or motivational backgrounds that generally share the same overarching narrative is that we don‘t like centralization of power. And, we don‘t like arbitrary control of systems.”
“The critics are the ones that are defending the status quo. And, I just find it sort of ironic that‘s the real battle here. I don‘t see it as a left versus right story, I see it as a protection of the status quo, political hierarchies, versus an attempt to innovate with new institutions. And, I would love the critics to represent that idea.”